tipping point

Should You Tip Your Sanitation Workers For The Holidays?

One woman wonders if tipping culture has gotten out of hand.

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Teachers, cleaning services, and mail carriers are all options on the list when it comes to a little...
Kaidi Dey / TikTok

Tipping culture in America is kind of this running joke around the entire world. We’re the only country where we’re asked if we’d like to leave a tip for...pretty much everything? It’s even a meme on TikTok.

However, during the holiday season, this whole tipping thing gets a little more complicated. Service workers like teachers, cleaning people, hair dressers, and mail carriers are all options on the list when it comes to a little holiday tip or gift, so what about sanitation workers?

An Estonian women living in America, Kaidi Dey, wondered if she should tip her sanitation workers after she received a “Happy Holidays” note from her local crew that included a P.O. Box for a return address. According to her father-in-law, they expect a tip.

“Our garbage collectors left us this really nice card on our garbage this morning and it reads, ‘Happy Holidays! The best wishes for you and your family from your sanitation crew,’ And I was told by a very, very smart person — my father-in-law — that they expect a tip,” she said.

Dey explained that, being from another country, this kind of tipping seems so “American,” and asked her followers if this is normal, if she should tip, and if she does tip, how much should the tip be for. The entire video lead to a heated discourse in her comment section where TikTok users went back and forth about tipping culture and holiday gift-giving in America.

“Now, this is a very American concept, and I realized that everybody in America tips for everything. I do tip for a lot of things like my hair stylist, for example, or if I get a massage or something like that. But I find it rather odd that you have to also tip for sanitation workers, but it is the holidays,” she explained.

Not only is she unsure about the practice of holiday tipping for garbage collectors, but she isn’t sure what or how much to give, either.

“So how much do I tip them? Do I tip them? I mean, I think it's sort of like expected at this point. So if you have any feedback, please do provide.”

Her confusion on holiday tipping in America offended some who posted in Dey’s comment section that they took issue with her “privileged” viewpoint.

“You come across as so privileged and entitled. Those guys do hard work. Imagine even asking whether to tip?” someone wrote.

“I think a worker working before dawn, working in all weather, removing your waste, deserves a tip,” another argued.

Others were just as confused as Dey was about the idea of tipping sanitation workers, and noted that once life wasn’t so expensive, they’d add a tip to their garbage pick up.

“I pay taxes. they are getting my money already,” one user wrote.

Another echoed, “I’ll tip sanitation workers when my property taxes aren’t $8k a year. 😂”

Others noted that a tip does not necessarily have to be money.

“My hubby is a sanitation worker & will come home with cookies, food, beer, etc during the holidays as a tip. Doesn’t have to be $!,” one user wrote.

Another TikToker wrote, “My dad was a sanitation driver. It doesn’t have to be money. My dad used to come home with gift baskets, cookies, wine, beer.”

Another said, “My husband was a sanitation worker for over 16 years. Their hard work goes unnoticed & their job is important. I tip. I’d say at least $20 per person.”

One commenter asked, “Is there a profession in the US that doesn’t expect a tip? 😂😂”

The OP replied, “Good question at this point 😅 this one threw me for a loop. I think it’s more of expecting a Christmas something something.”

A few people hinted that if you tip or gift your sanatation workers, you might get special service when you need it year round.

“I have a friend who makes them gift baskets,” one person wrote. “Let’s just say they always take her bulky items without fail.”

If you do want to tip your sanitation workers, The Emily Post Institute says a $10–$30 tip per garbage collector will do the trick. However, obviously, assess your personal financial situation, budget, and quality of service you receive before making any holiday tipping decisions.

And where do you put the envelope if you do decide to share some holiday cheer with your garbage pick-up crew? Some get up a bit early and hand it over in person, others tape it to the top of the can. Others say they’ve looked up an address and mailed it in. When in doubt, just call your service and ask.

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